Hockey Fans Gone Wild (well, Canadian-style)


A gull over Vancouver last night might have wondered what had happened to all the people. Pretty much the only sign of humankind in this usually busy city was around the hockey arena, where tens of thousands of fans cheered the Vancouver Canucks against the Boston Bruins in game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Hockey, of course, is Canada’s national sport, and when the home team plays for the Stanley Cup, it’s like New Year’s in June. “Go Canucks Go!” became the unofficial city motto, on posters all over town, on flashing signs on public transit, and even over the PA system on my Air Canada flight up.

Fans without tickets could gather around a giant TV screen, near the arena and visible from blocks away. That’s where I watched.

Judging from the litter underfoot (another unusual occurrence in this tidy country), significant quantities of beer and root beer, and patriotic Canada Dry ginger ale were consumed. From the smells in the air – pizza, tobacco and, um, other smoke – a contact high was a distinct possibility. But it was good natured and polite in that most Canadian of ways (people said “sorry” when bumping into you). Superfans carrying tin-foil Stanley Cups or wearing puck hats made great people watching.

The crowd was more interesting than the game until, during the last period, the Canucks scored what turned out to be the game’s only goal, and the dull roar felt like it might shake nearby windows. At about the final 90 second mark, the chant shifted to “We want the cup!”

As the final buzzer sounded and Vancouver pulled ahead in the series three games to two: euphoria, in that “we’re all in this together” way that Canada does so well. My favorite part: strangers queuing to high-five each other – and the constables keeping the peace – as they repopulated downtown to party for the night.